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Drop 2 Chords – Theory, Shapes, and Application

Drop 2 chords, though only containing four notes, are one of the most commonly used harmonic shapes in jazz and jazz guitar.

These small, yet powerful, chords are used to comp, chord solo, and build chord melody arrangements by the greatest names in jazz guitar history.

Players such as Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, George Benson, and countless others have used drop 2 chords to mold their harmonic vocabulary on the guitar.

Because they are so popular, drop 2 chords are essential learning for any student of jazz guitar as you build your ability to confidently outline jazz chord progressions.

While learning how to play drop 2 chord inversions on guitar is important, it’s also essential to learn how to apply these chord shapes to musical situations.

That’s why, in this jazz guitar lesson you’ll learn how to apply drop 2 chords to major and minor ii V I progressions, and learn a chord study for Blues for Alice.

By studying drop 2 chord inversions, applying them to chord progressions, and working them on jazz standards, you’ll create a deep understanding of these chords.

Take your time when learning drop 2 chord shapes, there’s no hurry to master these important jazz guitar chords.

Learn one group of inversions, then the next, and as you go, make sure to run them through the exercises at the end of this lesson.

Most importantly, apply them to your playing over standards as you take these chords from the page to the fretboard, and later the bandstand in a real-life musical situation.

 

 

Table of Contents (Click to Skip Down)

 

 

 

 

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What Are Drop 2 Chords?

 

One of the biggest questions I get from students and readers about jazz guitar chords is:

 

“How do you build a drop 2 chord?”

 

The name drop 2 comes from the fact that in order to build these chord shapes, you take a closed position chord, 1-3-5-7, and “drop” the 2nd note from the top down an octave.

This forms the initial interval pattern 5-1-3-7.

Here’s how that looks like on the fretboard to help with visualizing this chord construction.

The closed maj7 chord is on the left, the drop 2 maj7 chord shape is on the right.

 

drop 2 chords 1

 

When you drop the 2nd note of any closed-position chord by an octave, you will then produce the following four interval patterns for each inversion.

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-5-R

 

Notice that the 3rd and 7th, as well as the root and 5th, are always next to each other in any inversion.

This can help you in visualizing the intervals within any drop 2 chord shape you are learning or playing on the fretboard.

Lastly, this formula works for any chord type you can think of, you just have to alter the interval qualities to fit that chord type.

For example, a root position drop 2 7th chord is built R-5-b7-3, a m7 chord would be R-5-b7-b3, etc.

The intervals change to match the chord you’re playing, but the order of the intervals always remains the same.

To help you take these shapes from the page and onto the fretboard, let’s take a look at 12 different drop 2 chords for all of the common chord qualities used in jazz.

Each of these groups of drop 2 chords is written with a C root, so make sure to move them to other keys around the fretboard as you explore these shapes further in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Maj7 Chords

 

To begin, here are 12 different Cmaj7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cmaj7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 7th Chords

 

Here are 12 different C7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-b7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-b7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of C7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords 7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords 7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords 7 3

 

 

 

Drop 2 m7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cm7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-b7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-b7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-b3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-b3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cm7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

 

drop 2 chords m7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords m7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords m7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 m7b5 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cm7b5 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-b5-b7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-b7-R-b5
  • 2nd Inversion – b5-R-b3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-b3-b5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cm7b5 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 dim7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cdim7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-b5-bb7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-bb7-R-b5
  • 2nd Inversion – b5-R-b3-bb7
  • 3rd Inversion – bb7-b3-b5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cdim7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 mMaj7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different CmMaj7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-b3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-b3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of CmMaj7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 7#11 Chords

 

Here are 12 different C7#11 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-#11-b7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-b7-R-#11
  • 2nd Inversion – #11-R-3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-3-#11-R

 

Here are four inversions of C7#11 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Maj7#11 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cmaj7#11 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-#11-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-#11
  • 2nd Inversion – #11-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-#11-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cmaj7#11 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Exercise 1 – Qualities

 

The first exercise you can use to internalize drop 2 chords is based on finding chords that are only one note different from other shapes, and then moving between these chords on the fretboard.

Here is a favorite example of this exercise that covers 5 different chord types in one exercise.

Play these chords using drop 2 shapes in C, before moving them to other keys on the fretboard.

As well, you can use any string set, and any inversion, to outline these shapes, just stick to the same one for each time through the exercise.

So, if you play the first Cmaj7 chord as a 1st inversion on the middle four strings, keep that same outline as you then move to the other chords in the exercise, meaning you play every chord as a 1st inversion on the middle four strings.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 1

 

To help you take this progression to your studies, here’s a sample version of the above exercise to get you started.

 

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 1

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 2

 

Here’s another progression that I like to use where the second chord is built by altering one note from the first chord shape.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 3

 

To help you take this progression into the practice room, here’s a sample version of this exercise.

 

Click to hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 2

 

Drop 2 chords guitar exercise 4

 

Lastly, here is another chord progression you can use to learn and memorize various types of drop 2 chords in the practice room.

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 5

 

And here is a sample of this exercise to work on in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

Click to hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 3

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 6

 

Once you’ve worked through these three progressions in various keys and in all inversions on different string sets, come up with your own progressions to work drop 2 chords in the woodshed.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Exercise 2 – Major ii V I VI Chords

 

This exercise brings a practical application of drop 2 chords to your practice routine, as you outline major key ii V I VI changes using drop 2 voice leading.

When doing so, you begin on any iim7 drop 2 chord, such as the root position in the example below, and then move to the closest V7 chord, Imaj7 and VI7b9 chord in that area of the fretboard.

Here’s how that looks on the neck of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords exercise 2

 

When doing so, you will always use the following inversions for each chord.

 

  • R-2nd-R-1st
  • 1st-3rd-1st-2nd
  • 2nd-R-2nd-3rd
  • 3rd-1st-3rd-R

 

This order of inversions is the same for major and minor ii V I vi progressions, and so it’s worth memorizing as you take this exercise further in the woodshed.

Once you’ve worked out the example above, move to the other inversions of Dm7 on the top-4 strings and voice leading the chords from there through the progression.

Then, move on to different keys on that string set, and onto other string sets before applying these shapes to a full tune.

 

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Exercise 3 – Minor ii V I VI Chords

 

You can then repeat the previous exercise with minor key ii V I vi chords, as you can see in the following example.

When doing so, you’ll use the progression:

 

  • iim7b5
  • V7b9
  • ImMaj7
  • vim7b5

 

As there are a number of variations you can use for minor ii V I vi progressions, you can also use a Im7, Im6, and bIIImaj7 chord in place of the vim7b5 to add variety to this progression.

 

drop 2 chords exercise 3

 

Again, once you have these shapes down in various keys and on a few string sets, take them to a tune such as Autumn Leaves, which has both major and minor ii V I changes, in order to hear and see how these chords apply to a musical situation.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Major ii V I Chord Phrases

 

As well as learning how to play drop 2 chord shapes and running them through progressions, it’s important to learn jazz vocabulary that uses drop 2 chords in your studies.

The following three chord licks use drop 2 chords over the most common jazz chord progression, the major ii V I.

Each of these phrases can be used in your comping, chord soloing, or chord melody playing as you take them from the page and apply them to a musical situation.

Because you’ll be applying these phrases to your playing in real time, you’ll want to learn them in the original key first, then take them to other keys from there.

As well, you can jam over a jazz standard and apply each lick one at a time to your chord soloing and comping over that tune.

This approach to practicing will prepare you to apply these licks to your playing in a jam situation, as well as study how they sit on the fretboard in various keys.

There are backing tracks provided for each phrase that you can use to practice them in the given key, as well as an audio example to play along with when first learning each phrase.

To begin, here’s a Joe Pass inspired drop 2 lick that outlines a short major ii V I progression.

Notice the chromatic passing notes, Gb and Eb, used to add a bit of tension to the line.

As well, a Bm7b5 drop 2 chord is used to outline the 3 to 9 shape over G7.

If you’re new to this type of chord application, check out my lesson on extended jazz guitar chords for more background on using drop 2 chords in this manner.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Short Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 4

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 1

 

The next line is a mixture of Joe Pass and Ed Bickert as it outlines a long major ii V I progression.

Again, you’ll see Bm7b5 used over G7, which is very common in jazz guitar, as well as the Bbdim7 and Gdim7 chords used to outline the A7b9 chord in the last bar of the phrase.

The opening run, over Dm7, is a classic Joe Pass lick, and one you should extract from this lick so that you can apply it to any m7 chord in your chord soloing, comping, and chord melody playing.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 5

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 2

 

The final major ii V I phrase uses chord scales to outline each chord in the progression.

Here, you’re using diatonic chords, and one passing chord (F#dim7), to outline the chords in the progression.

This harmonic approach adds extra movement to the chord progression, creating an extra level of interest beyond the shapes you’re playing in the lick.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 6

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 3

 

 

 

Drop 2 Minor ii V I Chord Phrases

 

You’ll now move on to applying drop 2 chords to minor key chord progressions, beginning with the short minor ii V I.

In this first phrase, you’ll be using a very common chord application over the first two chords in the progression.

Here, you’re playing Am7b5 over Am7b5, then over D7alt, you’re playing Cm7b5.

When doing so, playing a m7b5 chord from the b7 of a dominant 7 chord, you create a 7alt sound in your playing.

This is a helpful harmonic application as it allows you to use the same shapes over both the iim7b5 and V7alt chords, creating different sounds over each shape in the process.

Then, over the Gm7 chord, you’re using a Bbmaj7 for the first shape of that chord.

This is another 3 to 9 harmonic sub, similar to what you used over G7 in the previous 3 licks, only here that theory is applied to a m7 chord shape.

When playing over m7 chords, you can play a maj7 chord from the b3 of that chord to outline a rootless m9 chord.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Short Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 7

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 4

 

The next line is played over a long minor ii V I chord progression in G minor.

You’ll be using inversions of Am7b5 over the first bar of the progression, then Ebdim7 and F#dim7 shapes over D7alt, both are common ways to outline those two chord changes.

Then, in the third bar, you’ll be using the Joe Pass m7 chord run you saw in the major ii V I section, only this time over the tonic m7 chord in a minor ii V I progression.

The line then finishes on a Bbmaj7 chord over Gm7 to produce another example of the rootless Gm9 chord shape.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 8

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 5

 

The final minor ii V I drop 2 chord phrase uses a static rhythm, chords on the & of 1 and 3, to outline the changes.

Beyond that, you’ll be using a C7sus drop 2 chord to create a Gm11 sound over the last chord in the phrase.

By lowering the 5th of Gm7 by a tone, you create a Gm11 sound in that section of the line, which turns out to be the same shape as a C7sus chord.

This isn’t a very commonly used sub, but it’s one that can add new flavor to your comping and chord soloing lines.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 9

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 6

 

 

 

Drop 2 Blues for Alice Chords

 

To finish your introduction to drop 2 chords, here’s a chord study written out over the chord changes to Charlie Parker’s jazz classic, Blues for Alice.

Go slow when learning this chord study, learning each two or four-bar phrase one at a time until you have them memorized and comfortable on the fretboard.

From there, you can connect each phrase to form the study as a whole.

As well, there’s a backing track included so you can practice playing this study on your own, as well as practice comping over Blues for Alice with the drop 2 chords that you learned in this jazz chord lesson.

 

Backing Track Blues for Alice Backing Track

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 10

 

Drop 2 Chords Blues For Alice 1

 



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